Woodmere Museum Porcelain Highlights Bonhams Sale

. April 10, 2010

A spectacular group of porcelains from the Woodmere Art Museum and important silver works, has collectors eagerly awaiting Bonhams New York’s April 27th European Furniture & Decorative Arts sale.

Having opened its doors in 1940, the nucleus of the Woodmere Museum’s permanent collection is the benefaction of Charles Knox Smith. From a modest Philadelphia neighborhood, Smith built his fortune in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Along with wealth he also amassed a formidable fine and decorative arts collection, which numbered more than 2,000 pieces. Smith stipulated that his home containing his considerable collection be converted into a public museum to benefit the community upon his death.

Consisting of 23 lots, the selection of primarily 19th century porcelain includes fine examples of urns, vases – some of Napoleonic interest – and a monumental overmantel mirror.

Amongst the most highly desirable lots from the Woodmere collection will be a pair of monumental Sevres style porcelain Napoleonic urns, circa 1900. The first depicts the marriage of Napoleon I to Archduchess Marie-Louise of Austria, inscribed “Le Mariage” and “1811”. The second, after Jacque Louis David, depicts the coronation of the Empress Josephine by Napoleon before Pope Pius VII and the French Court, inscribed “Le Sacre” (pictured, left). Each are signed ‘J. Pascault’ with each reverse painted with chateaus in landscapes. With the underside of each cover bearing the inscription ‘M. Imple/de Sevres’, the stunning pair is estimated at $40,000-60,000.

An impressive and finely modeled Dresden porcelain parcel gilt and polychrome painted covered urn from the Potschappel factory, circa 1900, is of great interest. The cover is modeled with a beauty seated amid abundant foliage and the body is finely painted with a large oval reserve depicting a couple in 18th century costume in a gardenscape. The molded and gilt porcelain foliate scroll handles are headed by fierce and fantastic masks. Standing 65 inches in height the vase carries an estimate of $20,000-30,000.

Also sure to draw attention is a large German overmantel mirror, circa 1900, (pictured, right). The superbly modeled and painted porcelain frame’s crest is centered by a putto emerging from a floral encrusted shell, with shoulders similarly modeled with spread-winged birds. Throughout, the frame is finely executed with numerous and various blossoms; the base is painted with reserves of corresponding birds. Expected to fetch $20,000-30,000, the frame is fitted with a beveled glass mirror and mounted on a contemporary wood support.

Other Woodmere porcelain lots to note include a pair of late 19th century, Royal Vienna style vases (est. $20,000-25,000); a late 19th century, Royal Vienna porcelain covered urn with reserves depicting the Rape of the Sabines, “Tristan and Isolde”, and “Einzug des Yeiserich in Rome” (est. $15,000-20,000); and a gilt-bronze mounted Sevres style Napoleonic urn, circa 1900, painted with a continuous scene depicting Napoleon with his mounted troops (est. $17,000-20,000).

And while the museum’s porcelain collection is certain to lure collectors, of special note in the auction is an Important Tiffany & Co. silver cigar box (pictured, left) presented to Ted R. Gamble by the film industry in recognition of his tremendous service as the US Treasury Department’s National War Finance Director during WWII. The design of the piece is attributed to Arthur L. Barney, 1930, and is rare. Of heavy gauge silver, the piece is acid-etched with flat-chased faux strapwork alternating with foliate panels on a stippled ground and is engraved with a contemporary presentation inscription. It is very similar to the example owned by 42nd Governor of New York, Al Smith, and now in the Collection of the New York Historical Society. This lot includes photocopies from the Tiffany & Co. Archives of the original ledger and drawings for the box. Including copies of newspaper articles describing its presentation to Mr. Gamble and his importance during WWII, the lot carries an estimate of $50,000-80,000.

Additionally, the auction includes a Steinway Art Case Model M Piano designed for and owned by Henry Blank, a survivor of the RMS Titanic. The painted decoration is thought to be by Robert Benvenuti, and carries an estimate of $30,000-50,000.

Proceeds from upcoming sale will benefit the Charles Knox Smith Art Acquisition Fund and allow Woodmere to further fulfill its mission of communicating the significance of the arts of Philadelphia.

The sale will be on view at Bonhams New York from April 24th until the day of the auction which takes place on April 27th at1PM EST. The illustrated auction catalog for the sale will be online at www.bonhams.com/us in the weeks preceding the preview and auction. For more information about the department, please visit www.bonhams.com/usfurniture

Category: Museum News

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